E for Electoral Registers

6 April 2016

From 1841 to 1911 (in England, Scotland and Wales), we have a census each ten years. Handy…. though not completed for genealogical purposes! If they were, then I am sure the lines would not have been so regularly drawn through ages, occupations etc. when statistical analysis was undertaken on the census schedules. How could someone be so careless as to draw a thick black line through the middle of an age to make it almost illegible?! Clearly not a historian/genealogist of the Victorian era!

The ‘problem’ with the census though is it only gives a picture every ten years. Oh, don’t get me wrong! We are grateful. But, Electoral Rolls are kept for each and every year following a Parliamentary Reform Act in 1832. At parish level, a list had to be published of those people eligible to vote and, over the years, the lists became more and more comprehensive, rather like the census. Copies of various Electoral Rolls are being made digitally available by some of the commercial sites. Ancestry has the London Electoral Registers (1832-1965, minus several years during the two World Wars, 1916-1917 and 1940-1944). FindmyPast has over 220 million names of voters in a record set originally titled England & Wales, Electoral Registers (1832-1932) as well as various county-based records and the UK Electoral Registers 2002-2014 (very useful for tracing living people).

Unfortunately, several years ago in England (and no doubt, Wales, Scotland etc.) people could choose to opt out of appearing in the published Electoral Register, which makes it much more challenging to track people down. Understandably, some people may have a particular reason why they do not wish to be found but many people make it more difficult than it needs to be for us to find them when we are trying to pass on an inheritance! The same is true of being ‘ex-directory‘ in terms of landline telephone numbers. Modern technology assists our work (Internet, social media channels, etc.) but modern choices frequently don’t!

Have you used the historic Electoral Registers to aid your genealogical research? Any gems you’d care to share?

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